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The Magic of Rio de Janerio

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking……

The Girl from Ipanema, recorded by Astrud Gilberto, won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965. Its timeless melody and captivating lyrics have resonated with people all over the world making it one of the most re-recorded songs in history.

Funny how life comes full circle. Growing up in a small town in Ohio, my high school girls’ choir performed The Girl from Ipanema in our annual spring concert. We wore long, pastel dresses and swayed gently to the Bossa Nova beat. At the time, I had no clue where Ipanema Beach was located, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I too would go walking along its shores in Rio de Janeiro one day.

Fast forward, maybe more than a few decades, and recently that was exactly what I did.

As I strolled along the golden sands of Ipanema Beach, it was almost impossible not to hear the soft strains of Astrud's voice in my head. But unlike the calm, melodic notes of the song, Rio de Janeiro exudes a vibrant energy that feels like a never-ending celebration.

Rio de Janeiro is a city like no other that I have visited. It is often listed as one of the top 20 cities in the world to visit, and it is easy to see why. The incredible energy that permeates the streets is infectious. As I reflect upon my time there, my heart beats a little faster, as I recall what gives Rio de Janeiro this incredible energy.


Nestled amidst majestic rocky mountain outcroppings, Rio de Janeiro’s topography is truly breathtaking. Unlike many other cities that are bordered by distant mountains, Rio's mountains are intertwined within the city, creating a breathtaking dramatic backdrop.

As you explore Rio, you can't help but be awestruck by the proximity of these massive peaks to the urban areas. As you walk through the busy city streets you can turn a corner and come face to face with the green forests that cling to the mountain sides and sometimes the wildlife that lives there.

But it’s at night when Rio’s beauty truly shines. The twinkling lights of the city resemble rivers of bright gemstones, meandering between the peaks, creating an enchanting scene.


Few places in the world have mastered the art of curating a beach experience quite like Rio de Janeiro. And there is no better example of this within Rio than Copacabana Beach.

Imagine starting with a vast canvas of soft, light brown sand stretching as far as the eye can see, meeting the sparkling turquoise waters of the ocean. People throughout the world flock to beaches just to see this type of picturesque setting. But Rio takes it so much further, elevating the beach experience to new heights.

Along the shoreline, you'll find hundreds of nets set up for games like volleyball, foot volleyball, and beach tennis. The nets define well-organized courts that are filled with locals of all ages, highlighting the healthy culture and lifestyle of this area.

For those seeking relaxation, beach chairs, and umbrella rental stations are scattered every few yards. These stations are adorned with brightly colored flags from around the world, serving as beacons for families and friends to find each other amidst the vast expanse of the beach.

Next, line the beach with a beautiful mosaic boardwalk. This lively pathway is lined with bright lights, ensuring that the beach experience doesn't end with the setting sun.

Finally, strategically position small, open-air beach restaurants along the boardwalk, tempting you with the aroma of freshly grilled seafood and refreshing Caipirinhas, the quintessential Brazilian cocktail.

Now you have the perfect beach experience from dawn to late-night hours. With all this beauty and activity, it’s no wonder that the beaches are an integral part of the Rio de Janeiro lifestyle.


Few places in the world can rival Rio de Janeiro when it comes to a collection of iconic landmarks. These globally recognized images leave no doubt about their origin and experiencing them in person is truly thrilling.

The Christ the Redeemer Statue, perched atop Corcovado Mountain, is one of the most recognizable landmarks worldwide. Standing at the base of this towering 125-foot structure of Jesus Christ evokes a profound sense of awe. The view is spectacular from the top of the mountain, offering an overall perspective of the layout of the city including the downtown, the gorgeous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. It is important to remember though that it can be very foggy at the top and so if you can’t see the statue from the bottom of the mountain, you aren’t going to see much at the top either!

The viewing area at the base of the statue is small relative to the statue’s popularity and is clearly an elite Instagram spot. I would advise that you plan to arrive first thing in the morning if you want to enjoy the tranquility of the space and amazing view. It gets difficult to move around without photobombing someone’s Insta shoot after about 9 AM!

Equally renowned are the cable cars that transport visitors to Sugarloaf Mountain. The vibrant colored cars surprisingly accommodate a considerable number of people. The ride feels smooth and secure as you traverse up and down the mountain.

The breathtaking views from the top of the mountain are undoubtably the star of the show though.

For a really spectacular experience, consider visiting just before sunset and savoring the view as the city lights create a beautiful, sparkling tapestry among the mountains. Watching the city come alive after dark while enjoying a cocktail at one of the mountaintop bars is an unforgettable treat.

To avoid lengthy lines for the cable cars, I would highly recommend booking a timed ticket in advance to skip the line. And if mountain climbing is your thing, you can book a guided climb to the top as well.


The culture of Rio de Janeiro is as unique as its stunning natural beauty.

The city pulses with an unapologetically free and festive vibe that’s simply contagious. Amidst the natural beauty, there is a certain grittiness that makes you feel the need to have a more heightened sense of awareness when you venture off the main thoroughfare. Throughout the streets and beaches the beat of Latin music is a constant backdrop for the day and night activities. There is a fearless self-expression in the choices of skimpy bathing suits worn by both men and women, embracing a confident and carefree attitude.

The combination creates a contagious energy, and you quickly find yourself quickly embracing in the celebratory attitude towards life.

As I said goodbye to Rio de Janeiro, I smiled wondering what that small-town Ohio girl would have thought while she swayed in her long, pastel dress if she knew then what I know now about Rio de Janeiro. As always in my travels, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to explore and learn about new destinations, even if it is more than a few decades later than I could have imagined.


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